Pratt & Whitney said Monday it is cooperating with authorities after federal agents arrested a former employee for trying to ship documents to Iran related to the U.S. military's Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
The East Hartford defense contractor, the sole manufacturer of the aircraft's engine, declined to comment on how Mozaffar Khazaee, 59, slipped thousands of pages of documents, diagrams, blueprints and technical manuals out the door before he was laid off in August along with hundreds of other employees.
Federal authorities arrested Khazaee at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on Thursday before he could board a plane bound for Frankfurt, Germany, to meet a connecting flight to Tehran, Iran, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut.
Pratt and the Pentagon are highly sensitive about compliance issues after Pratt parent United Technologies Corp. paid $75 million in 2012 to settle charges that Pratt and another UTC unit violated arms control laws and made false statements about exporting military helicopter software to China.
Company spokesman Ray Hernandez said in an emailed statement that the company "has been fully cooperating with the government on this matter and will continue to do so."
The evidence against Khazaee — filed in an affidavit that was unsealed by a federal judge in Bridgeport after the arrest was made — shows how authorities learned of his plan to ship dozens of boxes, labeled as household goods, to western Iran on a large container ship. Documents filed by federal agents do not address a motive.
In October, Khazaee hired a company to ship the boxes from his apartment on Oakland Street in Manchester to the port in Long Beach, Calif., where they were to be loaded onto the NYK Libra, according to court documents.
In late November, customs agents at the port inspected the shipment and found the documents, and days later identified them as belonging to three separate companies. Documents obtained by federal authorities indicated that the ultimate recipient of the shipment would be Khazaee's brother-in-law, Mohammad Payendah in Hamadan, Iran, the affidavit said.
Khazaee became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1991, according to the affidavit. He holds U.S. and Iranian passports and has traveled to Iran five times in the past seven years.
The shipment mainly contained documents related to military aircraft engines, including the F-35 Lightning II built by Lockheed Martin and what federal agents referred to as the J136 engine, which could refer to the F136 engine designed, though ultimately not built, by General Electric and Rolls-Royce for the F-35.
The shipment also included cookware, dishes, an English-Persian dictionary, medicine bottles, college documents, printed emails, an expired Iranian passport and credit card bills addressed to Khazaee's Manchester residence, according to the affidavit.
The bills and medicine bottles identified Khazaee, but so did his fingerprints found on the packaging tape on three of the boxes, according to authorities.
Khazaee worked on a team at Pratt that conducted strength and durability evaluations for components in all of the company's engines, including the F119 engine for the military's F-22 Raptor engine, the affidavit said. He was laid off in August, when Pratt cut about 400 positions throughout the company.
Months later Khazaee left his Manchester apartment and moved to Indianapolis.
Khazaee lived in Indianapolis in 2005, when he filed for bankruptcy after amassing tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. According to court documents, he had $69 in cash and owed $53,681.46 when he filed for bankruptcy.
At the time, he was a contractor for Volt Services, a large, technical staffing and job placement company. He listed his place of employment as Rolls-Royce Avenue in Indianapolis.